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[sur-lee] /ˈsɜr li/
adjective, surlier, surliest.
churlishly rude or bad-tempered:
a surly waiter.
unfriendly or hostile; menacingly irritable:
a surly old lion.
dark or dismal; menacing; threatening:
a surly sky.
Synonyms: ominous.
Obsolete. lordly; arrogant.
Origin of surly
1560-70; spelling variant of obsolete sirly lordly, arrogant, equivalent to sir + -ly
Related forms
surlily, adverb
surliness, noun
unsurlily, adverb
unsurliness, noun
unsurly, adjective
Synonym Study
Glum, morose, sullen, dour, surly all are adjectives describing a gloomy, unsociable attitude. Glum describes a depressed, spiritless condition or manner, usually temporary rather than habitual: a glum shrug of the shoulders; a glum, hopeless look in his eye. Morose, which adds to glum a sense of bitterness, implies a habitual and pervasive gloominess: a sour, morose manner; morose withdrawal from human contact. Sullen usually implies reluctance or refusal to speak accompanied by glowering looks expressing anger or a sense of injury: a sullen manner, silence, look. Dour refers to a stern and forbidding aspect, stony and unresponsive: dour rejection of friendly overtures. Surly implies gruffness of speech and manner, usually accompanied by an air of injury and ill temper: a surly reply. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for surlily
Historical Examples
  • The Russian surlily told the conductor to attend to the wants of the lady.

  • “I am a Christian,” I answered, surlily enough, for I did not like this examination.

    In the Days of Drake J. S. Fletcher
  • When he asked them where they were going, they surlily replied that they were going to California.

    The Boy Settlers

    Noah Brooks
  • "It's better than nothing," muttered he, surlily, below his breath.

    Luttrell Of Arran Charles James Lever
  • "You can have the bunk beyand," indicated the Rough Red, surlily.

    Blazed Trail Stories Stewart Edward White
  • A porter came at my summons and demanded, surlily enough, what I wanted.

    Sir Ludar Talbot Baines Reed
  • "And a cursed long time you have been with the baggage," grunted the other surlily.

    The Elusive Pimpernel Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • “The skipper said I was to keep charge of the young lad,” said the man, surlily.

    In the King's Name George Manville Fenn
  • “Oh, come along, Captain Duncan,” growled old Jonas surlily.

    Devon Boys George Manville Fenn
  • With which he went off surlily enough under all his assumption of indifference.

    The Woman Gives

    Owen Johnson
British Dictionary definitions for surlily


adjective -lier, -liest
sullenly ill-tempered or rude
(of an animal) ill-tempered or refractory
(obsolete) arrogant
Derived Forms
surlily, adverb
surliness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from obsolete sirly haughty; see sir
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for surlily



1560s, "lordly, majestic," alteration of Middle English sirly "lordly, imperious" (14c.), from sir. The meaning "rude, gruff" is first attested 1660s. For sense development, cf. lordly, and German herrisch "domineering, imperious," from Herr "master, lord."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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